Health & Family

People’s Pharmacy: Papaya helped with Prilosec withdrawal

Q. I recently went off Prilosec after reading that such heartburn drugs can weaken bones and increase the risk for dementia. To ease the resulting reflux, I drank apple-cider vinegar tea with a little honey after meals. This worked wonders for a few weeks.

I still had occasional heartburn and chewed an antacid a few times a day. My daughter gave me a bottle of papaya chewable tabs, and I eat three each day. I’ve not had a bout of heartburn since.

After years of being on Prilosec, I’m happy to say that I’ve been off it for three months and am almost completely heartburn-free. I don’t need the apple-cider tea, and I’ve also dropped 10 pounds since I’ve been serving myself smaller portions to avoid overeating.

A. Stopping acid-suppressing drugs like esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec) can be challenging because of rebound hyperacidity. The resulting reflux symptoms are often painful and long-lasting.

Papaya enzymes have a reputation for aiding digestion, but there has been little research on this approach. The same could be said of apple-cider vinegar for heartburn. Although many readers affirm that both approaches are helpful, we do not have solid scientific evidence to support these remedies.

One product, GutsyGum, contains the antacid calcium carbonate plus licorice extract, papain (papaya enzyme) and apple-cider vinegar. In one small study, GutsyGum eased heartburn symptoms better than placebo gum (Journal of Dietary Supplements, June 2015).

Blood pressure

Q. My husband has taken just about every kind of blood-pressure medicine there is. The ACE inhibitor caused a horrible cough. The alpha blocker took away his energy and made him depressed. The calcium antagonist made his legs swell up. While taking an ARB and a beta blocker, he collapsed on the way to the bathroom. It took months for him to recover.

After that, he changed his diet and lost 60 pounds, and without the medicine he can walk 3 miles a day. That has brought his blood pressure down, but he still cannot get it to where his doctor wants it. What else can we do?

A. If medications interfere with your husband’s ability to exercise, they would be counterproductive. Exercise and weight loss are key to controlling blood pressure.

Other nondrug approaches include getting plenty of flavanol-rich foods, such as beets, blueberries and dark chocolate, in the diet. They all make blood vessels more flexible.

‘Itchy bottom’

Q. Years ago, my husband suffered from what the doctor called pruritus ani. We called it “itchy bottom.” The doctor suggested he drink a glass of buttermilk a day. I have no idea how it worked, but it did the trick.

A. We have no good explanation either, though we could imagine that the probiotics (good bacteria) in cultured buttermilk might alter intestinal microbes to establish a healthier balance.

Joe and Teresa Graedon: